Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnipathos
Although Hartshorne always identified himself as Christian, it seems that many Christians suspect him of being a closet pantheist. Says here that he came in for criticism on a number of grounds, such as the assumption that "there is an objective or rational structure to the whole universe," and that "human thought can acquire accurate and adequate knowledge of the universe."
I certainly don't have a problem with that one, so long as we specify that our knowledge is always asymptotic, meaning that it ceaselessly approaches its own completion without ever acquiring it.
But more generally, being that man is in the image of the creator, this reflection must quintessentially include the intellect. It doesn't mean that we are "omniscient," only that the intellect is conformed to the nature of things. If it isn't, then we are excluded from truth.
I don't know if it is true that Hartshorne denies a first cause, but if he does, that is of course a cosmic non-starter (but easy enough to remedy).
He does make the controversial claim that God "needs" the creation, but he doesn't just come out and say it like that! He has his reasons, which we might just get to in this post. At this point I would just say that to truly love something or someone is to permit oneself to "need," and that to do this is "higher" and more noble than its opposite. For example, does the Father "need" the Son? Perhaps we wouldn't put it like that, but that doesn't mean the question is out of bounds.
Others complain about his "denial of divine foreknowledge and predestination to salvation." True. We'll also get back to that one.
The following is more problematic for me: his "highly optimistic view of humanity, and hence its lack of emphasis on human depravity, guilt and sin." In short, he is definitely a liberal, sometimes an obnoxiously clueless one (but I repeat myself). Having spent his life in academia, he does seem to have uncritically assimilated its narrow-minded ambient liberalism. And yet, aspects of his theology strike me as undeniably true, thus my desire to see if we can rescue him from himself and situate him in a more traditional context.
One thing that Hartshorne highlights is the "omnipathos" of God. This is a very useful word, because it means that, in addition to being all-knowing and all-powerful, he is all-feeling. Right there we see an interesting Trinity consisting of truth, love, and power, each conditioned by the other. More to the point, if we deny God's omnipathos, there is no way for him to meaningfully relate to us -- to put himself in our shoes. But isn't this what the Incarnation is all about?
Since I'm only writing for myself, I'm not going to go in any particular order. In The Divine Relativity -- speaking of omnipathos -- Hartshorne makes the intriguing point that God is not only the cause of all effects (which seems to take care of the First Cause), but also the effect of all causes. This would be the metaphysical/theoretical basis of his all-feeling omnipathos, as it means that he is supremely receptive to his own creation (or better, perpetual creativity).
This leads to one of Hartshorne's most controversial ideas, that God "changes." Quite simply, he changes because he is truly receptive to his creation -- hence also the "suffering with." Hartshorne believes that the emphasis on the notion of Unchanging Absolute -- as we've discussed in the past -- is a Greek import, not truly biblical (not to mention incoherent and ultimately absurd). In the Greek conception, time is completely devalued in favor of eternity. Time is change, and change is bad because it cannot disclose unchanging truth.
But there is change and there is change. For example, there is decadence, deterioration, corruption, degradation, dissolution, decline -- you know, Obama style change.
But there is also growth, development, maturation, perfection, etc. These are very different things. For Hartshorne, God possesses super-eminent relativity, meaning that his omnipathos is to our empathy as his omniscience is to our knowing. But it is certainly not to be thought of as a deficit. Rather, it is a kind of perfect attunement.
On a purely logical basis, how could God even have knowledge unless that knowledge is related to a known? No, we don't want to simply anthropomorphize him, but we shouldn't say that God has knowledge if we mean something totally different by the word. As Hartshorne writes, if
"the divine knowledge is purely absolute, hence involves no relation to things known, what analogy can it have to what is commonly meant by knowledge, which seems to be nothing without such a relation?" Yes, he is the cause of this world, but here again, what is a cause without an effect? To say that in God cause and effect are one is to simply deny cause and effect, and to enclose him in a static monad.
The same applies to free will. If being omnipotent -- all-powerful -- means that we have no power, then that ends the discussion. But if omnipotence is bound up with omniscience (bearing in mind that to know is to relate) and omnipathos, then this changes the equation.
As Hartshorne writes, "Power to cause someone to perform by his own choice an act precisely defined by the cause is meaningless." Again, if God's omnipotence excludes our limited potency, then he is as pointlessly enclosed in his own circuitous locution as any deconstructionist.
If we consider the creation, we see that it is woven of chance and necessity, of freedom and constraint, of boundary conditions and emergent phenomena, of order and surprise. Perhaps this tells us something about its creator. Too much order equates to absolute omnipotence in the traditional sense, but a world of pure chance is inconceivable.
Even leaving all the specifics to the side, life makes no sense without this oddly "perfect" cosmic complementarity of design and freedom (which I would say is the very essence of creativity). Furthermore, "the reality of chance is the very thing that makes providence significant," because otherwise any intervention by God is just necessity in disguise.
Running out of time here, but perhaps "maximizing relativity as well as absoluteness in God enables us to conceive him as supreme person." Unless by "personhood" we mean something totally alien to us.
For if God is "in all aspects absolute, then literally it is 'all the same' to him, a matter of utter indifference, whether we do this or do that, whether we live or die, whether we joy or suffer." In short, if this is "personal," then we aren't.